NZ 12 days later: I always think I’m leaving tomorrow

 Day 3,186 since October 10th 2013: 197 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic! 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

Nobody wants to be stuck

pano

I know NZ isn’t the worst place to be stuck. But it is not fun to be stuck anywhere. Time management is vital for the Saga. So is action. Do nothing and nothing happens.

Last week’s entry: 6 countries from home – Aotearoa New Zealand

Some people think that I am crazy. They tell me they cannot believe I’ve held out this long. Sometimes I cannot believe it either. The accomplishment of getting this far is however not resting on one man’s shoulders. It has been a group effort with thousands of participants chipping in over the past many years. It is this support which has made the otherwise impossible possible. And while the remaining six countries seem downright impossible to reach right now…we will certainly find a way. There are no ferries to the remaining six. This means we are once again at the mercy of those who can offer access to ships and boats. Furthermore, as per last weeks entry, all four remaining countries within the South Pacific are still closed due to COVID-19. Out here in this part of the world the pandemic is still very much a part of every day life. My friends in Denmark say they have long ago stopped speaking of the virus and are instead on more present issues such as the war in Ukraine. I have tried to reach out to the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu and the Press Secretariat in Samoa (so far, no reply). These two countries are most likely to open up soon. In fact, Vanuatu is due to open today (July 1st)! Let’s see if they open up in stages like NZ has. For now, it is still not permitted to arrive to NZ on a cruise ship, yacht, sailboat etc. Reaching the final six countries is a matter far more complex than what the average person understands. The good news is: we are no longer seven countries from the goal – we are six…with 197 behind us!

1

2008: exploring the North and South Islands of NZ together with Cam.

The Danish Red Cross (which I am a goodwill ambassador of) frequently states that they are “always present”. In spite of that I have rarely seen them present within Once Upon A Saga. The Danish Red Cross did not once reach out to me during the two years of the pandemic while I was stuck in Hong Kong. And they did not notice when I recently went offline for several weeks while drifting east of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. It does make me wonder how long I would be able to lie dead before they would know? A harsh topic, I know. Yet, I could have lost my life many times during the past years given the modes of transportation I have had to take and all the places I have taken you to. It is remarkable how absent the Red Cross has generally been for many years. While I donated blood at the Hong Kong Red Cross four times, they never made use of this in any way? Apart from a guided tour at Hong Kong Red Cross HQ in early 2020 I had no contact with them. The Australian Red Cross was informed of my arrival to Australia even before I had set foot on land. I requested for a meeting in Sydney but they pushed to have at least two hours of my time in Melbourne where their HQ is. I agreed to meet with them in Melbourne but also asked to meet with them in Sydney, which was a good thing, as the meeting in Melbourne never came to bear fruit although I spent twenty-seven days in Melbourne and much more in Australia. And now that I have been twelve days in NZ I have still not been invited to meet with the NZ Red Cross, although I have been appointed a contact person more than a week ago. And NZ Red Cross have known of the Saga’s arrival months in advance. Since October 10th 2013 I have become the first and only person to visit the movement in 191 countries. Within the Saga we have raised awareness and funds for the humanitarian work. We have inspired volunteers and staff, and gone to great lengths in symbolically uniting the movement across the world. This has clearly not gained much traction to my great disappointment. Yet, I do believe in the humanitarian work and will keep up raising awareness and funds. Trying to fight the good fight.

2

The "Pink Path" is a cycleway in Auckland. I generally think it's good when we make way for cyclists. Apparently a lot of motorists in Auckland disagree :)

It all feels out of control. I have control when I can buy a bus ticket, a train ride, or book a ferry to the next country. My control is highly diminished when we rely on container ships, yachts, sailboats etc. At times the Saga has reached an island nation and already had the next ship set up for a specific departure date. That brings great relief along with freedom as my time is not spent solving logistics and bureaucracy. It is the opposite when we’ve arrived to island nations and haven’t had a solution to leave. In such situations it all becomes rather labor intensive: networking, research, meetings, more research, and more networking. In the back of my head, I always think we will have it all sorted and be leaving soon. I would never have imagined that we would have been two weeks in NZ?! NZ is most definitely a great country to be stuck in if you are free to move about. But how can I move about when there remains no clarity about the future? If I head south for a few days then I might miss an opportunity to get on a ship tomorrow. Probably not - but there is no way to know. In the big scale of things two extra days in each country is 400 days extra within the Saga. Two extra weeks in NZ is two extra weeks until I see Denmark.

3

Inger to the far left. Robert to the far right. And Steen and Erik are in the middle. These were all great people! I bet you can't tell who's from Denmark and who's from NZ? ;)

Do you remember Inger who handed me my passport number ten last week? She is the Honorary Consul-General of Denmark in Auckland. She is also the wife of Robert and the mother of Erik and Steen. In the past she was also the president of the Danish Society NZ. She’s definitely a good example of the Saga’s motto: a stranger is a friend you’ve never met before. While Danish Embassies and Consulates have generally not been very welcoming of this project, Honorary Consuls certainly have! There was Salah in Sudan, Leila in Tunisia, Rudain in Jordan, and now Inger in New Zealand. These four individuals have shown overwhelming support and kindness. Apart from being Honorary Consuls they are also private citizens with jobs and an affiliation to Denmark. They are unpaid by the Danish state until they carry out work within their consular capacity. Different creatures entirely. In my experience warm and forthcoming. Not cold, arrogant, and reserved. I do however have kind words to spare regarding the Danish Embassies in Mali, Ghana, Russia, Pakistan, and India. But that’s a different story for another time.

5

Māori carvings remind me of the Greenlandic Tupilak.

Last weekend was spent at Valhalla which in Norse mythology is an enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. My weekend was spent at its namesake which is in Leigh some ninety minutes driving north of Auckland. More than forty years ago Danish Society NZ had the foresight to invest in a property in Leigh. It came with a house which has since been renovated extensively to form Valhalla. Essentially a home away from home for Danes and Kiwis alike. Yeah – New Zealanders are called Kiwis. The name 'kiwi' comes from a curious little flightless bird which is unique to New Zealand. Māori people have apparently always held the kiwi bird in high regard. So, it is not offensive to call people Kiwi’s. And it is rather cute, I think. Inger invited me to join her and thirteen others for a prolonged weekend in some extraordinary landscape. Staying at Valhalla was akin to summer camp in school. I got to share a room with Rolf who was a great guy, who enjoys running and adores Salomon. That works for me. A bunch of us got up before sunrise on the first day to se if we could spot Matariki. This year was the VERY FIRST year in which Matariki is introduced as a public holiday here in Kiwi land. Matariki is known as the Māori New Year in Te Ao Māori (the Māori world view). It is signified by the Matariki cluster of stars (aka Pleiades) reappearing in the night sky, and is a time to reflect on the past year, celebrate the present, and plan for the year ahead. I didn’t see it due to clouds but it was a beautiful morning.

4

Valhalla.

It’s unknown how many Danes live in Kiwi land. But it could be around 4,000. It was a pleasure spending a weekend together with fourteen lovely people in the outskirts of Leigh. Culturally our two countries get along really well and many within Danish Society NZ are married to one another living in Danish/Kiwi relationships. It was a great weekend in which we celebrated our version of Matariki which involved good food, friendship, conversations, music, and enjoying the wonderful nature around us. I also managed to fit in a run, and Inger and her family even brought me to see Goat Island and the coast near it. Another statement to NZ’s beauty. I even managed to fit in a personal challenge of getting to Panetiki Island (The Outpost) dry shoed. It was a small island which sometimes becomes reachable at low tide. I succeeded on the last day together with Robert and Todd.

6

Valhalla.

6a

Burning the witch! Burn her!! Buuuurrrnnn her!!!

In Denmark the solstice is known as Sankt Hans and we traditionally light a bonfire, burn a witch, and sing a few songs. We got that done too. Thanks to everyone for letting me tag along and making it a really nice weekend. Valhalla has held a special place in the hearts of many for more than forty years – and now it holds a special place within mine too.

7

Media has be generous this week. Here I am with Bjorn (left) and Sela from The Morning Wake Up (LifeFM). Gerat guys :)

Back in Auckland I’ve been busy with lots of interviews, obviously bureaucracy and logistics, I did a speaking engagement, I visited the Maritime Museum, I’ve done some sightseeing, and I saw an arrogant doctor regarding a yellow fever vaccine. It has been nice to see NZ catching up on the story. I’ve done four radio interviews, three interviews for an online newspaper, and two tv interviews including NZTV’s breakfast show. It seems so ironic how well liked the Saga is by many and how much I long to be done with it and return home. But I appreciate the love. I have received two yellow fever vaccines in my lifetime. Apparently, the World Health Organization (WHO) have adopted recommendation to remove the 10-year booster dose requirement and the vaccine is now valid for lifetime. The vaccine is required to enter certain countries and I have often been required to present it at borders, checkpoints, and during container ship travel. My latest yellow fever vaccine is coming close to its ten years and as such I sought to get a new one. Easier said than done. Having called several clinics in Auckland I found one which had one vaccine left. Not two: one! I booked an appointment and was told that for yellow fever it was mandated by law to be consulted by a doctor. I tried to talk my way out of it but it was not possible. I showed up for my appointment and a very arrogant doctor went on to explore some 25-30 vaccines I have received within my lifetime and comment in great detail. He also explained that I no longer needed the yellow fever vaccine and scolded me for being over vaccinated. When it dawned on me that I wasn’t getting the vaccine I saw to end the consultation which offended the doctor who let me know he was a very busy man with better things to do. It was all very strange and I was invoiced NZD 150 for the session. This was however compensated by a donation from Phyllis (thank you). Well, now we are wiser.

8

I spoke at Rohlig in Sydney and had the pleasure of doing it this week here in Auckland. I was asked to focus on mental health, mental fatigue, and stress. No problem. I know a thing or two about it. It was a real pleasure meeting with the Rohlig team and sharing my story with them.

8a

NZ Maritime Museum. A great place to learn about NZ's history.

8b

NZ Maritime Museum also explores immigration over the centuries.

final

The praise for Verandahs Parkside Lodge speaks for it self! 

I wish I was free to travel about and enjoy Aotearoa. But alas, I’m shackled to the Saga. There has been an overwhelming response from people across social media thanks to the many interviews and the audience has once again grown. The kindness of Kiwis apparently knows no boundaries. On a final note, I find many similarities between Iceland and NZ. Obviously, many differences too. But focusing on the similarities I can mention that they are both highly volcanic nations, they are both very isolated from other countries, they both have small populations compared to their vast natural beauty, they are both modern and wealthy nations, they both have the majority of their populations concentrated in one place, and finally: they are both countries I could see myself running too if I was no longer welcome within the Great Kingdom of Denmark in the High North of Europe.

8c

Searching for the light at the end of the tunnel (photo from NZ with Cam, 2008).

 

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or find that I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga welcomes funding. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - looking for a red carpet to be rolled out.

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 Once Upon A Saga logo small

Once Upon A Saga

Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 2Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 3Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 4Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 5SM LinkedIn

 

 

Add a comment

6 countries from home – Aotearoa New Zealand

 Day 3,179 since October 10th 2013: 197 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic! 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

The land of the long white cloud

pano

Well, it hasn’t been long since I released the previous entry. But we’re in a new country now and there are already stories to tell. So, here’s a short but sweet entry from “The land of the long white cloud”

Last week’s entry: MV “Toronto Trader” – passenger no. 1 (crossing the Tasman Sea)

I think it’s interesting that 800 years ago there were no people living here. The Viking Age lasted from 793–1066 AD. Not all that long ago things considered. And it ended before, what we now know as New Zealand, was settled by humans. Vikings were famous for their navigational skills and traveled far and wide in their longboats. In fact, they made it across to North America, to Africa, and even to Asia during their exploits. New Zealand is almost the antipode of Denmark so that would have been quite the voyage for them. But just imagine; we could have been raising the Danish flag over the North- and South Islands today...if they had just made it a bit further. Nah – that’s a little silly. In reality it was skillful navigators from Polynesia who first arrived on the shores of what the Māori call Aotearoa: The land of the long white cloud.

1

That red marker is where I spent 17 days onboard Toronto Trader! I could have reached New Zealand on the 5th. But nobody cared enough to come and get me.

There is something to be said about NZ Customs Service. I have only had good experiences with them. It was NZ Customs Services who in detail explained how, according to NZ rules and regulations, a passenger could in fact arrive to NZ onboard a container ship – even during COVID-19. And when I met the two customs officers at Toronto Traders gangway in Auckland, I found them to be calm, kind, and very easy going. One of the officers even mentioned he had been to Denmark in 1981 (when I was three years old). Then when I reached the gate, just before leaving Auckland Port, I met another customs officer who likewise made my life really easy and was nothing but friendly and easy going. The attitude of these customs officers had me wondering if I should just have left Toronto Trader with the diver’s boat on June 5th to Tauranga. There was a distinct possibility that things would have worked themselves out without waiting for customs approval. Oh well, water under the bridge, at least we know things were done by the book as usual.

2

2b

Being taxied within the Port of Auckland to the main gate.

There was a huge difference between my arrival to Australia and my arrival to New Zealand. On arrival to Townsville in Australia I was greeted by the port authorities at the ship’s gangway and presented with a little welcome gift. Then I was greeted by media at the gate of Townsville Port and did an interview. I was then offered a ride to where my host (Kara) was waiting for me. Kara welcomed me to Australia, showed me all the sights in Townsville, and hosted me for two nights. In New Zealand I simply walked out the gate and then I was on my own. My first action was to buy a simcard and get connected to the world. Ultra-wifey and I were originally meant to get married in NZ sometime during 2020. As such I have been in touch with Inger for years already. Inger Mortensen is Denmark’s Honorary Consul-General in Auckland and we have been communicating a lot over the years. While in Sydney I applied for a new Danish passport and had it sent to Inger thinking I would get to Auckland a lot sooner. In reality the passport arrived more than a month earlier than me. After a FEW HOURS of dealing with Vodafone’s “service” my simcard was all good and set up. I found a hostel, checked in, bought an AT public transport card, and then I was off to have lunch with Inger and her husband Robert.

3

Inger handing me my passport no. 10 within the Saga after she cancelled passport no. 9. More about Inger and Danes in Auckland next week!

It took me a few days to find myself after my arrival. I’m well aware that the Saga is a rough and demanding project. It requires a lot from me – especially mentally these days. I don’t always want to see people. Sometimes I just want to be alone. I long for a more “normal life” back home together with my dear Ultra-wifey. The twenty-eight-day voyage from Melbourne to Auckland had me a little shook up and I needed to find my smile. I was certainly agitated but as always, I need to cover it with a smile and patience. I can’t walk around biting peoples head off. I need to be polite to strangers. And in any case, it is not New Zealand’s fault that it is among the last countries of the Saga and that I have long ago lost the enthusiasm which I left home with. New Zealand deserves a proper promotion just like any other country. New Zealand happens to be a remarkably lovely country so promoting it should not be hard. I have been to New Zealand before together with my Aussie friend Cam. It was back in 2008 and we had two weeks in which we toured the North- and South Island doing everything! I bungee jumped (Nevis, 134m/440ft), we went caving and saw glow worms, we went skiing, we visited Arrowtown and had whiskey at The Blue Door Bar, we sat and enjoyed a movie at Cinema Paradiso in Wanaka, and a whole lot more. The entire time we lived out of a “Spaceship” (Toyota Estima MPV) which had been converted to a campervan. Good stuff!! For many years I have said that I only know of two countries where you can set your camera for self-timer, throw it in the air, and have a stunning photo when it comes back. One is Greenland. The other is New Zealand.

6

The Spaceship still exists! 

This is the closets we have ever been to completing Once Upon A Saga! Six countries do not sound like a lot but it certainly is! Especially when you consider that four of them are still closed due to COVID-19. In the South Pacific we are left with Vanuatu which might open its border on July 1st (fingers crossed). There is Samoa which may open its borders in August). And Tonga and Tuvalu are just kind of staying shut down but one would think they might follow suit and open up when Vanuatu and Samoa are open. These four countries are all relatively near to Fiji where we went back in 2019 and likely need to return to in order for the logistics to work out. I’m aware of three shipping companies which connect the region and are likely willing to help: Neptune Pacific Direct Line (NPDL), Swire Shipping, and Matson. NPDL has helped out before and I am in touch with Rolf Rasmussen who’s NPDL’s General Manager in Sydney, and has said they can certainly help albeit currently we are bound by strict protocols. I would likely have been home almost two years ago without this darn pandemic. My friend Paramesh at Swire Shipping said they can help out if I can reach Noumea (New Caledonia) which is French territory. And we have never been in touch with Matson which is an American company. But I was recently introduced to Kim who has a lot of experience within shipping and has offered to introduce me to Matson’s GM in Auckland. It somehow seems like the bigger issue these days are getting access to the countries – less so finding a ship to join. Neither is however straight forward.

5

I treated myself to a Thai-massage and the new Top Gun movie! The massage helped and the movie was fantastic!

In other news, Auckland is a really fine city! It is by far the largest city in New Zealand with more than 1.5 million beating hearts. The capital is Wellington which is about 500km (310mi) south of Auckland and home to a whopping 400,000 people. I always find it interesting when the most populous city isn’t the capital. It is however not uncommon. Anyway, Auckland is a really cool city which feels like a big village. People are kind and helpful. Auckland is clean, green and safe. There are many things to do but less than normally. Winter is upon New Zealand and it is getting cold. Temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius (50F). Many things also had to close down during the pandemic due to a lack of tourism and New Zealand has only just opened its borders up. Buildings generally seem cold. For whatever reason New Zealander’s decided that their country doesn’t get cold and made all their walls out of paper! The country has plenty of rock and timber. But buildings are generally poorly isolated.

4

Auckland.

I spent my first two nights at a cold hostel in the Central Business District (CBD). I was in a 14-bed dorm room which was nearly full and had a few people snoring at night. It was the cheapest thing I could find at NZD 14/night (USD 8.77). Good for the budget but otherwise just a bad call. The bed wasn’t comfortable, the internet was average, the shower water was lukewarm, and it was really cold. The location was quite good though. After a few nights I relocated to a much nicer place at a higher cost (NZD 31.50/USD 19.70) but absolutely worth it. I chose a 3-bed dorm room and got it all to myself. In my head I have a list of some of the best hostels I have come across and Verandahs Parkside Lodge went straight on it!! What a place. Really nice on every level, very clean, heaters and extra blankets in the room, great location near Western Park and in walking distance from the CBD, good Wi-Fi, great kitchen facilities, the list goes on! I’m getting too old for 14-bed dorm rooms. Verandahs is the way to go in Auckland!

7

The view across Western Park and the CBD as seen from Verandahs.

Auckland is dotted with around 53 dormant volcanos and a kind of must do thing when in Auckland is to head up on top of Mt. Eden known in Māori as Maungawhau. And in Māori “wh” is pronounced as “f”. It’s walkable from Verandahs and on the day the sky was blue and visibility was great. Maungawhau was historically one of the largest and most elaborate Maori Pā (fortified village settlements) in Aotearoa / New Zealand and was home to thousands of people. Today, Maungawhau is among the finest examples of prehistoric earth fortifications in the world. You can see the remnants of terracing for whare (houses), pits for food storage and banks and ditches for defense. Keep in mind, the first humans arrived about 1280 and the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman did not discover New Zealand until 1642. There was plenty of time for Māori culture to develop and flourish.

8

The view of an overgrown volcano crater from Mt. Eden Peak. Auckland CBD in the back ground.

On my way back to Verandahs I walked past an old looking building called Galbraith’s Alehouse and decided to step inside. It turns out they have only been brewing beer since 1995. But the alehouse used to be Grafton library building which was completed in 1913. A charming place and quite atypical I sat down with my lonesome self and ordered a beer. I rarely drink beer and and almost never drink by myself. But the alehouse called for it. Just as I sat down my friend Thomas of the Andersen Clan in Hong Kong called me. We ended up having a nice chat over 45 minutes while I had two beers – technically not alone. It was good to catch up with him and hear how things are going. And that brings us to the end of this entry.

9

Having a beer with Thomas (9,127km/5,671mi away).

I do not know what the future holds. Perhaps we can negotiate with governments, perhaps its better to relocate from New Zealand to New Caledonia or Fiji, and perhaps it will work itself out soon. Who knows? Six countries does not seem like a lot. If everything goes our way then we might be able to reach Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu before this year is over. And Sri Lanka and The Maldives by early next year. But when is the last time things went our way? Good thing I was born with sisu. If I end up getting stuck in New Zealand for some time then I might just rent a Spaceship, live in it, and cruise around Aotearoa.

last

My first NZ meat pie. Good!

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or find that I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga welcomes funding. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - grateful for all the help and support!

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 Once Upon A Saga logo small

Once Upon A Saga

Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 2Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 3Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 4Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 5SM LinkedIn

 

 

Add a comment

MV “Toronto Trader” – passenger no. 1 (crossing the Tasman Sea)

 Day 3,176 since October 10th 2013: 197 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic! 

(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).

How I ended up stuck at sea for over two weeks

pano

In this highly unique entry, a by now routine voyage as a passenger onboard a container ship took an unexpected turn. “It is hard to predict, especially the future”

Last week’s entry: Leaving Australia alive – is it a miracle?!?

I am writing this entry with plenty of hindsight. I have been offline for more than three weeks and have a yet untold story to share with you. As I boarded this, the 29th container ship within the Saga, there was nothing which indicated anything other than routine. However, the routine was indeed broken. Among the many things I have come to learn from venturing across most countries in the world, this much is true: while most people are kind, helpful, and harmless to a stranger – most people in the world are also blind to opportunity and will often shy away from responsibility.

1

Toronto Trader: free fall boat with Melbourne in the back.

I joined the good ship Toronto Trader in Melbourne on the evening of May 24th. But before that, in the 11th hour, I was notified that I needed a negative PCR-test result before boarding the ship. Not just a simple rapid test. I will not go into detail as I already shared this story, and how my friend Cam helped me solve the situation, within the previous Friday Blog. Suffice to say it was evening when I received this information and I was also told that I needn’t worry about time as the good ship was not due to depart until the next day late at night. Yet, wise from prior experience, Cam and I did not delay and I found myself onboard Toronto Trader before midnight. The good ship departed Melbourne the following day at 2pm (not late at night). That is the world of container ships for you. You never quite know what to expect. Before we reached New Zealand, that would become truer than what I could have imagined!

11

There is always to be done on a ship. And always a smile to be found from a Filipino :)

3

Chief Cook Desiderio Darwin Ondo (Philippines) was great! Not only a good and experienced cook, but also the only person onboard I spoke to three times a day. At times joking about Jolly Bee or Balut.

It is always a privilege to join these working ships. It is not comparable to joining a cruise ship and it is not easily done. It is especially not easily done now during the global pandemic. Some people might think the pandemic has ended and many have resumed to lives which resemble pre-pandemical conditions. For the shipping industry the pandemic still lives on with strict COVID-19 restrictions relating to embarking, disembarking, calling ports, crew change and more. Joining a ship as a passenger requires a lot of effort and many people are involved in making it possible. In this particular case it had to be accepted by the ship’s owners, charterers, operators, management, as well as authorities such as Australian and New Zealand customs and immigration. It is not a simple matter of entering a port and asking the captain. And it is certainly not a question of applying for a job onboard the ship. As such I am grateful to shipping legends Poul Kristensen at ZIM in Hong Kong and Steve Felder at ZIM in Canada. And certainly, to the entire ZIM team in Hong Kong along with everyone at Gold Star Line. How amazing that it would become Hong Kong which came to the rescue and got me onboard the Saga’s 29th container ship sending us towards country no. 197 in an unbroken journey completely without flying. Hong Kong is after all my second home.

2

It was a smooth two-day voyage from Melbourne to Sydney. The good ship Toronto Trader moves in “circles” between Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, and Tauranga. As such she is currently assigned to moving cargo between Australia and New Zealand. Her maiden voyage was back in 2016 after being delivered from Jiangsu Yiangzijiang Shipyard and her home port is in Singapore. The overall length is 147.9m (486ft), so close to 1.5 football fields. She’s 23.25m (76ft) wide and has room for 1,103 twenty-foot containers (TEU). As such she can carry 13,064 metric ton corresponding to 2,177 African elephants! In comparison, the worlds largest container ship can carry roughly twenty times more! But the point of Toronto Trader isn’t about volume. She is a feeder vessel and can fit inside smaller ports. That is also why she is fitted with two cranes. The main engine produces 6,900kW. That is about 9,381 horsepower. A Toyota Corolla has 169. The brave crew onboard consisted of eighteen men: 8 from Ukraine, 1 from Russia, 8 from the Philippines, and 1 from Myanmar. With me we were nineteen souls and five nationalities hoping for fair winds and following seas.

4

Calling Sydney.

5

John Willy with his office in the back ground.

A highlight of this voyage was meeting John Willy, Chief Executive Officer at Hutchison Ports Australia. As the good ship slowly entered Sydney port, I noticed it was operated by Hutchison. Back in 2020 I did a talk at Hutchison International Terminals (HIT) in Hong Kong and made friends with Ken Choi. So, on arrival to Sydney, I sent him a quick greeting connecting the dots. It took less than a moment for Ken to send John across the harbor terminal to come and meet me! What a surprise and what a pleasure. John showed up with a big smile and some company merchandise. John also pointed out that we had arrived to Botany Bay where Capt James Cook fist landed in Australia in 1770. I’m sure Capt Cook would have been blown over today seeing how the bay has developed into a major logistical hub with Hutchison Ports on one side and Sydney International Airport on the other. We were close enough to the runway to see the dust cloud of burnt rubber bursting from touchdown during landings, and furthermore to hear the unique sound the engine makes before take-off just before passengers are pushed backwards into their seats. A sound I haven’t heard for nearly eight years. John kindly offered to help me in any way he could – and that same night I couldn’t help myself and took advantage. The next morning before we departed Sydney, John stopped by once again with a bag full of salty beer nuts, two large bottles with Tabasco hot sauce, and a bunch of Tim Tams.

6

The food onboard was good but a little Tabasco is always good to have. Toronto Trader was the first ship on which did not have its own Tabasco stock. I learned to use Tabasco on container ships!

Situated between Australia and New Zealand we have the Tasman Sea named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman. The Tasman Sea can be extremely rough and unpredictable, and the seafarers onboard warned me of 7m (23ft) tall swell along with the good ship rolling 25 degrees from one side to the other. It had me a bit worried as I hadn’t quite regained my sea legs yet and the previous voyage from Hong Kong to Australia had been ridiculously smooth against all odds. As such I was worried, I would get seasick and once you have been severely seasick you will do whatever is in your power to avoid that feeling again. 2nd Officer Dmytro (Ukraine) had recently been promoted from 3rd officer and provided me with 30 Metoklopramid HCI tablets, which I fortunately never needed as the sea never got as rough as I feared. There was however a good amount of rolling (left to right, port to starboard) and pitching (front to back, bow to stern). Sometimes it would rain and some times the sun would be out. It took about four days to cross. There was very little I could do onboard which did not involve sitting or lying down. The good ship wasn’t equipped with a gym and I soon developed intense pain from deep inside my hip which provided me with a few miserable sleepless nights. But it went away again as quick as it had come to me after I took some painkillers. At night during the crossing, it would often be quite soothing lying in bed following the ship moving to the rhythm of the ocean. And then once in a while it would feel like a giant iron fist would crab the entire ship, hold it still for a split second, and then slam it hard down towards the ocean surface! I was later explained that this sensation occurs when the ship pitches forward and swell moves underneath the stern at the moment the ship pitches back down. It can really have the entire ship shake surprisingly hard. Across the Tasman I also had to secure anything lose (e.g. chair and luggage) within my cabin so that it wouldn’t wander around.

12

I should have mentioned that before we left Melbourne, Capt Semenluk (Ukraine) informed me he had been notified that the ship’s hull required its annual cleaning (according to NZ biohazard regulations) before we could approach NZ. As such the ship was still awaiting orders from Hong Kong as to where and when this cleaning was to take place. The order came through as we crossed the Tasman: we were to meet with divers off the east coast of NZ’s northern island in the Bay of Plenty. We passed north of the island and arrived east of Tauranga on June 3rd awaiting further instructions. Until the hull had been cleaned the good ship was not to enter NZ maritime territory and we had to remain a minimum of 12 nautical miles from the shore which corresponds to 22.23km or 13.34mi. At that distance the ocean was too deep for anchorage which meant we shut the main engine off and drifted. We were eventually given coordinates to a location within the Bay of Plenty where we would meet with the divers on June 5th so they could attempt to clean the hull. If the divers were successful then we were to enter Auckland on June 7th. So far so good.

7

The engine room onboard Toronto Trader.

Unfortunately, the divers gave up on cleaning the hull after only two hours. We had seemingly good conditions with little wind and swell. But it was too rough for the divers who left. Now what? It seemed very much like a catch 22 kind of situation: the divers could not clean the hull as we were moving too much, we were moving too much because we were not anchored, we could not anchor because it was too deep, we could not move to shallower water near the coast until the hull had been cleaned. What was going to happen? It appeared highly unlikely that we would have better conditions than what we already had (a near flat sea). One day began to take the next. The main engine would typically start up in the afternoon, we would move away from the 12nm barrier, the main engine would be shut off, and we would drift throughout the night until we needed moving again. After a few days a typhoon was in force west of NZ and we got to feel some of that while the pages blew off the calendar. On quiet days we would drift about 1 knot per hour and with more wind and current we would move twice as fast. On some days we would move 20nm and on others 35-40nm. In total over seventeen days, we moved more than 500nm (926km/556mi) relocating within the Bay of Plenty under engine - and possibly just as much drifting. The Bay of Plenty…plenty of drifting…

8

In case of emergency I had been assigned to the muster station on B-deck, port side.

I hate delays with a passion!!! I am not blaming anyone for anything here. I am in fact very grateful to everyone who got me onboard this ship and whichever part they played. I’m simply stating a fact: I HATE DELAYS WITHIN THIS PROJECT!! I curse every single minute I’m delayed in reaching home. But as a wise woman recently told me: “you cannot not quit now”. Sure enough, I could never live with myself if I quit after nearly nine years and only seven countries from the goal. I have felt this anger towards delay for many years. I started disliking weekends because government offices would close. Public holidays, key personnel out of office for whatever reason…a global pandemic!! Drifting in the Bay of Plenty for weeks while being able to see New Zealand in the distance has been a nightmare!!! Far worse than a 14-day hotel quarantine. Mostly because my time has been wasted. My life is being wasted. The uncertainty of how long it would take? If I could have done research, if I could have planned for the next countries and coordinated progress, then it would have been much different. If I had had a gym to work out in it would have helped to let out steam. I had limited access to internet through the ships Wi-Fi. It was a satellite connection which costs a fortune so while the quality was actually reasonable, I was simply limited in quantity. And I was unable to send emails which probably related to the outgoing server. Receiving emails cost far too much data so I eventually had to shut it off. A little bit of WhatsApp texting was possible (no photos). And for a while I could download news but eventually, I was left in the dark. Social media was out of the question.

13

And then one evening the sky did this!

As soon as we reached the Bay of Plenty, I realised it had to be possible for someone to come and get me from Toronto Trader and ferry me ashore. We had already done the hard part and NZ was visible. “All” we had to do was find someone willing to come and fetch me. I managed to reach the ships agent in Auckland on WhatsApp. He imposed three barriers: cost, customs, and the harbor master. I decided I was willing to pay USD 1,000. The agent wasn’t very engaged and one day took the next. I was eventually connected with the agent in Tauranga who proved even less engaged. Customs had cleared me to arrive in Auckland onboard the good ship Toronto Trader. End of story. Not end of story! It had to be possible. The agent told me it was dangerous. People do not know what I have been through already. Dangerous? Hah! Not to me. The agent in Tauranga coughed up a quotation to come and get me: NZD 8,600 (USD 5,500)!! How ridiculous? USD 5,500 for a boat to leave Tauranga, sail perhaps 30km (18mi) to get me, and return again?!? And furthermore, the harbor master in Tauranga opposed it deeming it dangerous, and customs had not yet approved that I could arrive in Tauranga instead of Auckland. What could possibly be the difference? Great seafaring people reached the shores of what we now know as New Zealand 800 years ago. Today it’s made impossible to fetch an accomplished adventurer from the outskirts of the countries maritime border. What has the world come to? To my frustration, days and highly limited internet data were spent getting nowhere.

10

Garbage segregation is important on container ships and taken very seriously.

I generally like seafarers. But at the end of the day, they come in all shapes and sizes. The officers onboard were largely from Ukraine and the ratings from the Philippines. For nearly a hundred days (before joining the ship) I had routinely been listening to international news which every day involved 10-20 minutes of updates on the war in Ukraine. This modern-day tragedy is of course also on the minds of Ukrainian seafarers. Most of the ones onboard had relocated their families safely outside of Ukraine. 2nd officer Dmytro told me: “I am lucky, all I have lost is my city”. What a sentence! He is from Mariupol where his parents still live. Dmytro added: “so far, our family house has not received any presents from the sky. Putin likes to send presents from the sky”. All eight Ukrainians onboard joined Toronto Trader before the war broke out. Imagine the psycology of that at sea! Capt Semeniuk is an experienced seafarer with twenty years at sea even though he is seven years younger than me. His personality is an acquired taste and very early on he made it clear to me that the ship is owned by Lomar Shipping Limited, where he seemed to place his allegiance. As such any communications with Gold Stars agents in relation to me as a passenger was to be carried out by me and he did not want to get involved. Interesting? We would sometimes talk and other times he would ignore me. His English was proficient but not perfect. A language barrier, culture, and Ukraine being systematically destroyed surely all played a part. I felt like an outsider to the Ukrainians onboard who would often speak Russian amongst themselves and leave me out of conversations. Late at night, on a few occasions, I could hear Russian/Ukrainian singing from behind closed doors. I’m happy they have each other in such tough times. Over the past months I have raised awareness and funds for the Ukraine Red Cross. It is sad beyond comprehension.

14

Ratings at work on the bow of Toronto Trader.

After several days of drifting, we could imagine a few scenarios forming ahead of us. What if the weather did not get better and the divers would not be able to carry out their work? How many days did we have provision for? How many more days would our fresh water supplies last? Would we need to return to Australia for the cleaning, for provisions, and for water? Would we get dispensation to call a port in NZ? Due to the typhoon west of NZ we were experiencing storm strength winds and 3-4m (10-13ft) swell. No good for getting the hull cleaned by divers. Would I be able to secure a boat and get customs blessing so I could leave Toronto Trader before we risked being ordered to proceed to Australia? Someone somewhere had to be working on a cost benefit analysis: how much was it costing having us drifting in the Bay of Plenty vs how much would a round trip to Australia costs? A friend of mine told me that chartering a ship our size would likely costs between USD 35,000 and USD 80,000 per day depending on the contract’s length. There are other costs to consider as well, but going by the 35k two weeks would amount to nearly half a million dollars. Not to mention the delay to the cargo and of course all the bunker fuel spent moving about in the Bay of Plenty (500nm under engine). Guess work. I foresaw a few outcomes:

  • The weather would calm down, divers would return to clean, we would head to Auckland.
  • We would get dispensation to head to Auckland without cleaning.
  • I would secure clearance and transport to leave Toronto Trader and reach NZ.
  • We would be ordered to head to Australia for cleaning and return to Auckland.

15

I re-watched Once Were Warriors from 1994 for the first time since the 90s. It's a New Zealand film and still holds up! In this photo: Rena Owen and Temuera Morrison. 

We reached a point where the laundry room was shut down to conserve water. The ship had a fresh water generator but the engine needed to run for approximately 24 hours to produce water. The captain along with the chief cook mentioned we had few days left with provisions. What was going on? What was happening? Nobody knew. Throughout this entire voyage I resorted to escapism: sleeping, podcasts, reading, movies, series. Never in my entire life have I watched as many movies and series as I have onboard Toronto Trader! With no gym, limited Wi-Fi and weather making it unsafe to do rounds on deck I was left with little option. I had a few conversations up on the bridge with Chief Officer Sarmin (Ukraine) and 3rd officer Maung Maung Kyi (Myanmar) who are both really good guys. But for the most part I was left to myself. Twenty-two days without proper internet access makes this the longest time time not managing social media. No small thing with an audience superseding 100,000 accounts. My absence “from the world” did not go unnoticed to some who reached out and expressed concern. Thank you. It should have been less time onboard. It could have been less than half if a boat came to get me. I continue to be puzzled about why I was not given permission to join the divers boat to Tauranga on June 5th? The agent in Auckland was informed about my wish to do so on June 4th. What prohibited this and left me onboard for an additional two weeks?

16

The divers boat: Karen D, Dusky Sound, MNZ 135460. I could have reached NZ on June 5th.

On June 17th the divers boat returned to similar conditions as what they had on June 5th. Somehow this time they could work? I was kindly given permission to join the divers boat to Tauranga by the owners of the boat. But according to the ship’s agent, NZ customs had not approved yet so the divers left without me. Unique to all the container ships I have voyaged upon, this one did not adjust the ships clock to match the actual time zone. There is a two-hour time difference between Australia and NZ but we remained on Australian time regardless. As such the sun would set around 3pm every day. The divers arrived at 05:00 (ships time) on June 17th and again on the 18th, which marked 8 years, 8 months, and 8 days since I left home – an auspicious day for many in East Asia due to the many 8’s. On June 19th NZ authorities gave the good ship permission to enter Auckland. The pilot came onboard early on June 20th and soon after that Toronto Trader was safely moored and I could finally set foot on dry land.

17

In conclusion I am highly grateful to everyone involved in furthering Once Upon A Saga to country no. 197 in an unbroken journey without flying. TIME: After 28 days at sea and 17 days drifting in the Bay of Plenty, we have once again made progress within this historical journey. This became the longest I have ever remained onboard a container ship. The previous record was held by the good ship Capitaine Quiros within Neptune Pacific Lines fleet and counted 27 days. HEALTH: The sharp pain I had in my neck when I joined in Melbourne on May 24th lifted after a few days onboard. Unfortunately, a similar pain appeared four days before disembarking Toronto Trader, which caused me terrible sleep and at times nausea. It will be good for my body to get some proper movement in NZ, possibly some massage, and hopefully my tested corpus will soon be up for a run again. It seems like I’m always in some sort of pain these days. SEAFARERS: they remain uniquely special to Once Upon A Saga and while I do not adhere to the “seafarers are heroes” tagline (as they are just doing their job) I am in full support of “seafarers are essential workers”. Our world would not exist as we know it without shipping. I would have liked to have a group photo with the brave crew, but the captain opposed to it. Finally, while onboard, I treated myself to some Whittaker’s dark chocolate from the ships slop chest and on one special day, I spotted some fifty dolphins making their way into the sunset. What is life without the little things.

What can I say? - I'm very happy to be in New Zealand.

 

 

 

I would like to thank our esteemed partners for their invaluable contributions to Once Upon A Saga: DB Schenker Denmark, Kameli, Red Sand Solutions, Salomon, the Danish Red Cross and Ross DK / Geoop

Hi Res with Geoop

 

If you enjoyed this blog or find that I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga welcomes funding. Thank you :)

 

 Patreon Picture2MobilePay

 

Best regards
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - yeah, and somehow I'm keep on keeping on?

"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"

 Once Upon A Saga logo small

Once Upon A Saga

Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 2Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 3Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 4Photo Mar 23 10 20 21 5SM LinkedIn

 

 

Add a comment

More Articles ...

Once Upon a Saga
Made by Kameli